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and more than all the rest to Russia, which has seen on its throne four empresses in succession.
The kingdom of France is of great nobility; no doubt it is: but that of Spain, of Mexico, and Peru, is also of great nobility, and there is great nobility also in Russia.
It has been alleged, that sacred scripture says, the lilies neither toil nor spin; and thence it has been inferred, that women ought not to reign in France. This certainly is another instance of powerful reasoning; but it has been forgotten that the leopards, which are (it is hard to say why) the arms of England, spin no more than the lilies which are (it is equally hard to say why) the arms of France. In a word, the circumstance that lilies have never been seen to spin, does not absolutely demonstrate the exclusion of females from the throne to have been a fundamental law of the Gauls.
Of Fundamental Laws.
The fundamental law of every country is, that if people are desirous of having bread, they must sow corn; that if they wish for cloathing, they must cultivate flax and hemp; that every owner of a field should have the uncontrolled management and dominion over it, whether that owner be male or female; that the half-barbarous Gaul should kill as many as ever he can of the wholly barbarous Franks, when they come from the banks of the Maine, which they have not the skill and industry to cultivate, to carry off his harvests and his flocks; without doing which the Gaul would either become a serf of the Frank, or be assassinated by him.
It is upon this foundation that an edifice is well supported. One man builds upon a rock, and his house stands firm; another on the sands, and it falls to the ground. But a fundamental law, arising from the fluctuating inclinations of mankind, and yet at the same time irrevocable, is a contradiction in terms, a. mere creature of imagination, a chimera, an absurdity; the power that makes the laws can change them. The
Golden Bull was called the fundamental law of the empire.' It was ordained that there should never be more than seven Teutonic electors, for the very satisfactory and decisive reason that a certain Jewish chandelier had had no more than seven branches, and that there are no more than seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. This fundamental law had the epithet 'eternal' applied to it by the all-powerful authority and infallible knowledge of Charles IV. God however did not think fit to allow of this assumption of 'eternal' in Charles's parchments. He permitted other German emperors, out of their all-powerful authority and infallible knowledge, to add two branches to the chandelier, and two presents to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly the electors are now nine in number.
It was a very fundamental law that the disciples of the Lord Jesus should possess no private property, but have all things in common. There was afterwards a law, that the bishops of Rome should be very rich, and that the people should chuse them. The last fundamental law is, that they are sovereigns, and elected by a small number of men clothed in scarlet, and constituting a society absolutely unknown in the time of Jesus. If the emperor, king of the Romans, always august, was sovereign master of Rome in fact, as he is according to the style of his patents and heraldry, the pope would be his grand almoner, until some other law, for ever irrevocable, was announced, to be destroyed in its turn by some succeeding one.
I will suppose (what may very possibly and naturally happen) that an emperor of Germany may have no issue but an only daughter, and that he may be a quiet worthy man, understanding nothing about war. I will suppose, that if Catherine II. does not destroy the Turkish empire, which she has severely shaken in very year in which I am now writing my reveries (the year 1771) the Turk will come and invade this good prince, notwithstanding his being cherished and beloved by all his nine electors; that his daughter puts herself at the head of the troops with two young electors deeply enamoured of her; that she beats the Otto
mans, as Deborah beat general Sisera, and his three hundred thousand soldiers, and his three thousand chariots of war, in a little rocky plain at the foot of mount Tabor; that this warlike princess drives the mussulman even beyond Adrianople; that her father dies through joy at her success, or from any other cause; that the two lovers of the princess induce their seven collegues to crown her empress, and that all the princes of the empire, and all the cities give their consent to it ;—what, in this case, becomes of the fundamental and eternal law which enacts, that the holy Roman empire cannot possibly pass from the lance to the distaff, that the two-headed eagle cannot spin, and that it is impossible to sit on the imperial throne without breeches? The old and absurd law would be derided, and the heroic empress reign at once in safety and in glory.
How the Salic Law came to be established.
We cannot contest the custom which has indeed passed into law, that decides against daughters inheriting the crown in France while there remains any male of the royal blood. This question has been long determined, and the seal of antiquity has been put to the decision. Had it been expressly brought from heaven, it could not be more revered by the French nation than it is. It certainly does not exactly correspond with the gallant courtesy of the nation; but the fact is, that it was in strict and rigorous observance before ever the nation was distinguished for its gallant courtesy.
The president Henault repeats, in his Chronicle, what had been stated at random before him, that Clovis digested the Salic law in 511, the very year in which he died. I am very well disposed to believe that he actually did digest this law, and that he knew how to read and write, just as I am to believe that he was only fifteen years old when he undertook the conquest of the Gauls; but I do sincerely wish that any one would show me in the library of St. Germain-des
Prés, or of St. Martin, the original document of the Salic law actually signed Clovis, or Clodovic, or Hildovic; from that we should at least learn his real name, which no body at present knows.
We have two editions of this Salic law; one by a person of the name of Herold, the other by Francis Pithou; and these are different, which is by no means a favourable presumption. When the text of a law is given differently in two documents, it is not only evident that one of the two is false, but it is highly probable that they are both so. No custom or usage of the Franks was written in our early times, and it would be excessively strange that the law of the Salii should have been so. This law, moreover, is in Latin, and it does not seem at all probable, that in the swamps be tween Swabia and Batavia, Cloyis, or his predecessors, should speak Latin.
It is supposed that this law has reference to the kings of France; and yet all the learned are agreed, that the Sicambri, the Francs, and the Salii, had no kings, nor indeed any hereditary chiefs.
The title of the Salic law begins with these words, "In Christi nomine,' in the name of Christ. It was therefore made out of the Salic territory, as Christ was no more known by these barbarians, than by the rest of Germany and all the countries of the north.
This law is stated to have been drawn up by four distinguised lawyers of the Franc nation; these, in Herold's edition, are called Vuisogast, Arogast, Salegast, and Vuindogast. In Pithou's edition, the names are somewhat different. It has been unluckily discovered that these names are the old names, somewhat disguised, of certain cantons of Germany.
In whatever period this law was framed in bad Latin, we find, in the article relating to allodial or freebold lands," that no part of Salic land can be inherited by women." It is clear that this pretended law was by no means followed. In the first place, it appears from the formulæ of Marculphus, that a father -might leave his allodial land to his daughter, renounc
ing" a certain Salic law which is impious and abominable."
Secondly, if this law be applied to fiefs, it is evident that the English kings, who were not of the Norman race, obtained all their great fiefs in France only through daughters.
Thirdly, if it is alleged to be necessary that a fief should be possessed by a man, because he was able as well as bound to fight for his lord; this itself shows that the law could not be understood to affect the rights to the throne. All feudal lords might fight just as well for a queen as for a king. A queen was not obliged to follow the practice so long in use, to put on a cuirass, and cover her limbs with armour, and set off trotting against the enemy upon a cart-horse.
It is certain therefore, that the Salic law could have no reference to the crown, neither in connection with allodial lands, nor feudal holding and service.
Mezerai says, "the imbecility of the sex precludes their reigning." Mezerai speaks here neither like a man of sense nor politeness. History positively and repeatedly falsifies his assertion. Queen Anne of England, who humbled Louis XIV.; the empress-queen of Hungary, who resisted king Louis XV.; Frederick the Great, the elector of Bavaria, and various other princes; Elizabeth of England, who was the strength and support of our great Henry; the empress of Russia, of whom we have spoken already; all these decidedly show, that Mezerai is not more correct than he is courteous in his observation. He could scarcely help knowing, that queen Blanche was in fact the reigning monarch under the name of her son; as Anne of Bretagne was under that of Louis XII.*
*The good government of queens has been explained a little epigramatically, by the assertion, that when women reign, men govern, and vice versâ; and it must be confessed, that the Bourbon regimen, with its eternal establishment of sultanas, has fully countenanced the latter half of the observation. The sex however must not be abandoned to Mezerai and Chesterfield: there are plenty of examples to prove, that women can govern, and govern ably.-T.